There is a child in me that misses Nehru Chacha!

I saw Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, way back in the early 1960s from the shoulders of my father. The memory of that evening as he spoke to thousands from the canopy of Jaipur Museum is still vivid in my mind as also the rapturous applause that went up in the air after every few sentences. The gigantic rush for meeting Nehru as he walked through crowds at Ram Niwas Bagh, patting cheeks and shaking hands of children and adults alike, is incomparable to any of the rallies addressed by today’s political pygmies. The love and respect for the visionary leader were spontaneous and overwhelming, revealing why the charismatic man was everyone’s favourite Chacha Nehru. He was not a leader but a dear member of every Indian family, whom everyone trusted as their own. Though I did not receive his paternal pat, yet I saw him from close quarters to understand that he was an extraordinary human being with a loving soul that throbbed for all.

However, it was much later after I read his books that I finally fell in love with the idealistic Jawahar Lal Nehru. After all, who would not be moved by studying his books like “Glimpses of World History”, “Discovery of India” and “Letters from a Father to a Daughter” since each page drips with profound wisdom and enlightenment. Quite astounding that the freedom fighter, imprisoned for over eight and a half years, could author such marvellous texts for future generations. The books reveal the majestic stature of his erudition as, despite his overriding engagement with the independence movement, Nehru writes each sentence with remarkable insight and sensitivity. And his “book of letters” uncovers a caring father who is concerned for his only child even in the heat and dust of the political struggle.

Looking around and seeing how the nations of our sub-continent have suffered from martial laws, military rules and despotic tyrants in the last seven decades, I feel we all owe a debt to Nehru for strengthening the roots of democracy in India. It was his steadfast belief in the democratic institutions and rule of law that gave this country not just a democratic conscience but also a coveted standing in the pantheon of nations. While prejudiced minds have derided Nehru in the last few years, all because they cannot attain his stature, it is a fact that had it not been for the visionary Nehru, India would not have been blessed with sparkling diamonds like ISRO, SAIL, SCI, DRDO, AIIMS, IITs, IIMs, Agricultural Universities and hordes of PSUs that have brought prosperity and recognition to our talent, product and services across the globe.

Remember the nation he inherited in 1947 was traumatised by a tragic and violent partition, a festering wound that had hordes of poor, illiterate and impoverished citizens struggling for existence. But thanks to Nehru, the fires of communalism were doused and our energies were transmitted into the right spheres to nurture millions with hope, education, health and prosperity. They are dumb who cannot see the humungous curses and drawbacks that confronted Nehru and what, despite meagre resources and international apathy, India did achieve in his compassionate reign!

I remember the day Nehru died. Me and my family members were watching a Hindi movie in Jagraon in Punjab where we had gone for a relative’s marriage. The afternoon show was in full flow when in a choking voice, the theatre manager announced the show would not continue any further due to the demise of the beloved Prime Minister. There was a collective gasp of horror and as the audiences walked out in hushed silence, many, including my parents, had tears in their eyes. The atmosphere in the streets was even more sombre and bizarre as most people sobbed uncontrollably while clinging on to one another for comfort.

Late film director Lekh Tandon once told me that independent India had seen only three deaths which were universally mourned by all its citizens across the length and breadth of the country. While I wasn’t born when Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated, I did see the overpowering grief of millions that burst forth after the deaths of Pandit Nehru and legendary singer Mohammed Rafi. Numb citizens across various villages and towns of India shed unabashed tears for the two of the most loved citizens of our times and yes, even Mother Nature mourned their deaths with torrential rains as if heavens too grieved at the demise of the two of the most noble human beings.

Like his ashes that mingled with the dust and soil of India to become an indistinguishable part of the nation, it is important that we all imbibe Nehru’s spirit of scientific temper, tolerance and understanding to break “shackles that bind and constrain” India. To save this country from any further communal calamity as well as increase the nation’s wealth, it is imperative that Indians inculcate Nehru’s overriding affection for humanity as that alone can bring prosperity and peace to us as well as the globe.

My heart goes out to Afghanistan and its citizens who for centuries have been great friends of India. Their future at the fall of Kabul to Taliban is precariously placed and full of dark horrors. I just hope that better sense prevails and we do not see citizens tortured or punished for their visions and beliefs.

This idiocy of Taliban is an abject warning to stupid and blind Indians who advocate right wing bigotry. If we allow Hindutva louts to take control of our political and social scene, then we too will be left with this kind of slaughter, penury and radicalism that will make freedom and artistic expression as well as living a difficult exercise. For all their moral preachings, the fact is that right wingers have always been profit seeking hypocrites who instill fear in a society and subjugate people only for their own selfish, abhorrent lust for power.

For the information of the supporters of blind bhakts in India who go around lynching innocents or intruding into kitchens and refrigerators of non-Hindus, the demon of Taliban was created by Americans to oppose Russians, but it ultimately was let loose on common Afghani Muslim citizens, just as it was done on Iraqis, while the wily and undependable Americans ran away to safety. The capitalist media of the west has always projected America as a saviour of freedom but, American and British skullduggery and lies have infected the world with miseries and wars ranging from Vietnam, Congo, Cambodia to Iran, Iraq & Afghanistan. The frenzy of Islamic radicals has done more harm to Muslim populations than any of the western civilisations and one can be sure that the demon of Hindutva too will harm the ostracized and poor citizens of India more than the rich and powerful.

People who read little and contemplate even less in India must realise that the ideology of HINDUTVA is just as treacherous, inhuman and debauched and yes, as immensely destructive and opposed to women’s rights as TALIBAN. The Taliban may profess high moral grounds, but they are known to subjugate women to slavery and prostitution. Similarly, our own Indian radicals may indulge in lot of moral sloganeering, but they have been beating, maiming and abusing women with regular attacks on their freedom, leading to many scary incidents of rapes and murders.

So do we want India to regress to the stone ages. Think… and think with your mind. And yes, please do not hypothecate your mind at the feet of rogue politicians and scoundrels. Remember, no Allah or Ram ever gave these radical idiots a right to browbeat and subjugate others, it is just a ploy to extend their own power and dominance by fear and torture.

Published in Moneylife
Dated: 06 June 2019 (View)

I had resolved to pen a few things about the radio industry but when I sat down to writing this column on 27 May 2019, the gravity of the date being the 55th death anniversary of Jawaharlal Nehru made me change my track. I was struck by the fact that the visionary architect of modern India had been the source of inspiration for the Hindi cinema with his idea of socialism and if our films still provide stories of humanitarian understanding, much of the credit must go to the great statesman. I felt a homage to this humanitarian leader was justified for his exemplary upholding of the democratic values of freedom, equality and justice that influenced Hindi filmdom for a long time.

I accept that many of the Hindi screen tales can be sordid, indecent or even ludicrous: yet it is irrefutable that they have constantly spread the message of love, friendship and harmony. Hindi films have shaped not just ideals of peaceful co-existence but also our morality, language, fashion and lifestyles that are generally acknowledged as “Hindustaaniyat” (Indianness).

Our constitution makers acknowledged the composite culture for India and if millions are practicing secularism in their daily lives today, it is in a large measure due to the overriding impact of Nehru’s benevolent spirit on our films.

Nehru’s gift of secular democracy was a much-needed adhesive for national survival since India had a divergent culture of multifarious languages, lifestyles, customs and practices.

While none can deny the contribution of patriotic countrymen, one has to nevertheless admit that Hindi films have helped unite this nation more than anything else and if the concept of one nation is still alive, it is thanks to enormous contributions by the Nehruvian brand of cinema.

Despite foolish decrees of religious leaders, irresponsible and acerbic barbs of political bosses as well as legacies of religious and communal conflicts, Hindi films have retained sanity to spread ideals of universal brotherhood.

From mediocre to sublime and avant-garde, Hindi films have steadfastly preached the need to live together and the message from “Dharamputra”, “Seema”, “Godaan”, “Garam Coat” to “Lagaan”, “Bajrangi Bhaijaan” and “Chak De India” is that irrespective of cultural and religious differences, we are one and hatred or killing are not tenets of any religion.

According to economic and political analyst Surendra Modi, “The kind of gigantic monetary and social upheavals that India has undergone since independence could have been catastrophic for any other country but Nehruvian ethics ensured India’s progress was inclusive and safe for all.”

Despite its spectacular diversity, Indian secularism has endured only because of common citizens but the roots of faith and goodwill have been well nourished by several on-screen characters like Sher Khan (“Zanjeer”), Harnam Singh (“Roti Kapda Aur Makaan”), Mrs. D’Sa (“Anari”) and Bharat (“Upkaar”) that castigate the rigid caste system and evil dogma with great ferocity. Author Shashi Tharoor says, “Nehru will be remembered for not abandoning vast sections of society” in India’s quest for economic progress and our worst of Hindi potboilers vindicate that Nehruvian vision of inclusivity embraced everyone.

As the nation’s conscience keeper, Nehru stood for an India that honoured every religion, caste, ethnicity and language. But if his “unity in diversity” became the most sacred tenet of independent India, it is all thanks to the stirring lyrics of our film songs.

Unlike the hypocritical utterances of politicians, phenomenal poetic renditions like “Insaan Bano” (“Baiju Bawra”), “Pyaar Ki Raah Dikha Duniya Ko” (“Lambe Haath”) to “Allah Tero Naam, Ishwar Tero Naam” (“Hum Dono”) and “Zindagi Hai Kya Sun Meri Jaan” (“Asli Naqli”) strengthened not just our secular framework but also inspired the “Ganga – Jamuni” tehzeeb (composite culture) wherein goodness and humanism are ranked higher than religious and communal practices.

Recovering from the traumatic grief of the partition, Nehru’s compassion motivated millions to give up violence while also encouraging filmmakers to exhibit the common thread of our shared heritage. Providing a universal colour to festivals like Eid, Raakhee, Holi, Diwali and Christmas, our films helped improve the trust quotient in civil society while also weaving a fabric of goodwill and harmony.

Nehru’s nationalism was synonymous with secularism whereby everyone, irrespective of caste, creed, colour, belief or religion was accepted as equal. Inspired by the Nehruvian philosophy, Hindi filmdom consistently spoke for the ostracized or marginalised citizenry with its exposition of feudal landlords (“Saheb Biwi Aur Ghulam”) or the helplessness of labour class (“Do Bigha Zameen”), while also pleading justice for physically and mentally challenged (“Dosti”, “Shor” to “Taare Zameen Par”) as well as farmers’ distress (“Mother India” and “Gunga Jamuna”).

In a way, Hindi cinema pioneered several praiseworthy initiatives too that apart from advocating inter-caste betrothals (“Julie”) also ranged from denouncing child marriage to raising a voice for widow remarriage (“Prem Rog”) while also trouncing untouchability (“Achoot Kanya”) and exploitation of child labour (“Boot Polish”), orphans (“Sujata”) and prostitutes (“Pakeezah”).

It would take several pages to list out the whole battery of filmmakers and artistes who were inspired by the iconic leader and incorporated Nehruvian legacy in their creations. The composite culture of filmdom enthused Hindus like HS Rawail and B.R. Chopra in depicting authentic Muslim culture in films (“Mere Mehboob” & “Nikaah”) and Muslim artistes (Naushad, Shakeel Badayuni and Mohammad Rafi) to create the profoundest bhajans for Hindus! Our political class needs to learn a lot from sublime artistes like Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand, Raj Kapoor and Sunil Dutt as well as Mohammed Rafi, Asha Bhosle, Sahir, Shailendra and Khayyam who rose beyond labels of caste, community and religion by being human!

If they could excel with Nehruvian philosophy, couldn’t politicians too work wonders with our development if they discarded their petty prejudices against the noble leader? It is pertinent to note that Jesus Christ was crucified for all the wrong reasons yet he ‘lives’ and hence, attempts at tarnishing Nehru will only make him live eternally. And who knows, someday, somewhere a gifted filmmaker might even validate Nehru’s legacy on screen forever!

(Deepak Mahaan is a well-known Documentary Film Maker, Writer and Commentator)

Grooming is big business of the modern era.

Look around yourself and you find most modern-day urban citizens being groomed in some art or craft that can widen their ‘appeal’ or enhance their commercial prospects. So, from being groomed in business management to dentistry, cooking to tailoring or just the plain art of public speaking, there is a market that abounds in gyrating to train people in various aspects of life.

But in an every day lingo, grooming is generally associated with being well trained in social etiquettes of personal appearance. And pray what constitutes that? Well, it is something that is far difficult to decipher simply because it has myriad interpretations and depends largely upon the social milieu to which a person belongs at a given time.  So obviously, what is chalk for some may be cheese for others precisely because of personal tastes, preferences and prejudices.

Grooming is akin to polishing of a rough uncut diamond to a fine shimmering state of brilliance whereby it dazzles as well as entices the viewer. As society is gradually becoming obsessed with visual appearances more than inward beauty, there is perhaps today a greater demand on looking or appearing good. Just a couple of decades ago, grooming was confined to combing well oiled hair into a neat design. But today’s youth, with ever expanding horizons, is meticulous about personal health and hygiene so as to present a formidable outwardly sight to all those who come in its contact. Wanting to make a favourable impression on the outward world, the modern generation takes pains to see that its visible attire and countenance is in tune with the trends and tastes of the prevalent times. And thus grooming has become of paramount importance in a dazzling world where everyone is looking for “fifteen minutes of fame.”

You could call it vanity or vainglorious attempt at personal gratification but the fact remains that the modern youth is thirsting to prove itself in whatever manner it can. So if our grand dads were satisfied with passing a slick comb through the hair before an important function, today’s youngster would see it to it that it has matching accoutrements to go with the nature of the occasion. Careful thought goes on into selecting trousers and shirts or skirts and blouses to go with its shoes and sandals for an evening date or an official meeting alongwith choosing the right kind of fragrance or cologne to match the mood of the moment.

There is an innate desire to look and act different that sets the tone for personal grooming amongst the urban youth. It wants to stamp its signature on everything that it does and, precisely for this reason, there is a huge demand for fashion accessories that could make him or her apart in a crowd. Consequently, you see exotic fabrics; psychedelic colours and bizarre fashion cuts taking centre stage and you wonder if it is indeed your own swadeshi India or some quixotic downtown America. You may or not agree with what goes into “grooming” of the personal self but you have to hand it out that the young have a flair and zest to carry out innovative designs and patterns that would petrify many a ‘swinger’ of the earlier decades.

Personal grooming is indeed a serious exercise of the new pulsating India and has led to multi-million dollar businesses evolving from Hauz Khas to Daltonganj. If men are pumping iron at the gym to tone their biceps, women are lifting weights to maintain their curves in appropriate places and none of them is at all shy of doing so. Chiseling their figures, making up their faces, adorning themselves with apparel or jewellery, grooming now includes a whole gamut of activities that could make you enhance your “attraction” in the commercial super market. Many even undertake lessons in art of public speaking or personality development to “market themselves” at a premium in the marriage or job market, as the case may be.

So from the time of our fore fathers, the world has come a long way! They might have learnt the rudiments of language, science and social graces sitting under a banyan tree, while oil dripped forth from their heads, but now you have large scale institutions grooming you in multi-dimensional activities provided you have the will to learn and yes pay! If grooming meant pleated trousers, tucked up shirts underneath well ironed blazers, today it could even mean flaunting your mid riff torso from beneath a torn denim jacket, all in the name of being groomed in the latest fashion!

But isn’t it surprising that despite the large scale attempts at grooming youngsters to be independent, confident individuals most actually appear to be clones of one another? Most youngsters look, walk and talk in such identical manners that there hardly seems any difference between any two specimens and you wonder where is their grooming? If you doubt my statement, take a walk in any urban mall and you’d find it difficult to specify whether the person before you is a he or a she! May be grooming still requires a personal touch that would treat people as human beings and not commodities that need to be trained in “exercises.”

Most people believe love is important in our lives. Yet hardly anyone thinks that there is anything to be learned about love. And though people watch endless films about love, read and talk about love stories yet love remains one of the most misunderstood subjects amongst human beings, why?

Surprisingly, majority of people think of love as a pleasant situation that arises as a matter of chance, something one falls into, if one is lucky. This is because most people see the problem of love primarily as that of being loved, rather than that of loving (one’s capacity to love). Hence the problems begin since everyone is concerned only with how to be loved, of being loveable rather than how to love. In pursuit of this aim, men try to be as rich and powerful as their social margin permits and women try to be as attractive as possible by cultivating their body, dress etc. both genders even make use of various avenues and props to make themselves “sell” or appear as loveable by being pleasant in manners, inoffensive and helpful in demeanour or by making interesting conversation. As a matter of fact, what most people in our culture mean by loveable is essentially a mixture between being popular and having sex appeal.

The second fallacy generally held by such people (or rather immature people) is to think that to love is simple, but to find the right object to love – or to be loved by – is difficult. This attitude is rooted in the materialistic outlook of our society whereby everything is available for a price. Despite overwhelming evidence to be contrary, people continue to hold the belief that nothing is easier than to love. Nevertheless, we see so many relationships going sour after the initial attraction has worn off; the sudden “falling in love” gradually leads to breaking down of walls between two people, they become acquainted, their intimacy loses its mysterious charm, until their disappointments, mutual boredom and their antagonism kills whatever is left of the initial excitement. There is hardly any venture, any enterprise, which is started with such tremendous hope and expectation and yet fails to last as love. Prey, what are the reasons and why are only a handful of people blessed with a love for a lifetime?

To understand this question, we must first study the meaning of love. It is important to realise that ‘love is an art’ and like any other art it needs a great deal of effort and cultivation – the mastery of the art must be a matter of ultimate concern. Unfortunately, despite our deep-rooted craving for love, we consider success, power, fame and money far more important than a saga of love. As one succeeds only in what one desires with immense passion and works at it, you will find that all those who have enjoyed constant bliss from their relationships are the ones who have invested their whole selves – physical, emotional and rational – into their relationships to make them everlasting and successful.

Further, love implies an active concern for the life and growth of that which we love. This active concern is made up of several elements of which care, responsibility, respect and knowledge deserve special attention. Love is an attitude of the mind, an orientation of character whereby a person relates to the entire world as a whole and not towards one ‘object’ of love. If a person loves only one other person and is indifferent to the rest of his fellow human beings, his love is not real love but a symbiotic attachment or an enlarged egotism.

Care is the concern for the welfare of the other human beings whereas responsibility is the entirely voluntary response to the needs of the other human beings. These are best reflected in the love of a mother who tends a child on her free will or a Florence Nightingale (or Mother Teresa for that matter) whose overriding care and responsibility are obviously reflected in her voluntary mission to nurse the wounded and sick. Responsibility could easily deteriorate into domination were it not for the third component of love, respect.

Respect is the ability to see a person as he/she is, to be aware of the unique individuality of another person and allowing that trait to grow. Respect, therefore, implies the absence of exploitation and exists on the basis of freedom in every sense of the word. Respect comes from knowledge and understanding of the other-self, rooted in the basic need of fusion of loved ones. Every human being is a bundle of unfathomable secrets to himself as well as to his fellow human beings and hence, it is only when one knows a human being intensely that one can know his or her sublime and pure essence in the act of love.

Thus we see that love is a concentrated meditation and effort involving care, responsibility, respect and knowledge. And like any art, the practice of love requires an immense amount of discipline, patience, concentration and supreme concern with the mastery of the art of loving. If you carefully observe any successful relationship you will find the immense effort that has gone into making the relationship worthwhile. If there is faith in oneself, one’s ability to produce love in others and in its reliability, there is no reason why the ‘art’ should not triumph.